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How to use yoga props effectively

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

Yoga props can help you to find alignment and space in the body, provide support and take your practise to the next level. Whether it's a yoga strap, block, bolster or blanket, there are so many creative ways to use these props to enhance your flow and help you gain more out of every class.

Join the block party. Blocks are incredibly versatile. Often used to “bring the floor closer to you,” blocks can also be used to activate and utilise less-targeted muscles, and to deepen stretches by moving the floor further away from you. Turn up the heat by adding block-assisted poses into your yoga practise.

If you've taken one of my classes before, you will know that one of my all-time favourite uses for the yoga block is in Supported Fish Pose. Lying down over the block with it resting in between the shoulder blades, as you reach your arms overhead holding onto opposite elbows and stretching the legs long, is truly satisfying to open up the shoulders to counteract a common human action of forward-folding over a desk. Let the neck relax completely or add a second block under your head for support. To significantly deepen the opening of this postural pose, I will automatically reach for a block every time I come into Fish Pose for a dreamy release that I can't quite get without this prop. Truly blissful at the end of class. A close second is placing the block underneath my bottom on its lowest level to slightly elevate the hips, while I stretch my arms overhead and extend my feet to the corners of the mat. A delicious opening for the hip flexors and entire front of the body.

For those in need of challenging practise both mentally and physically, stand on a yoga block in Half Moon Pose while floating your fingers off the earth (pictured), to build balance and tone every muscle in the body. The use of the block underfoot in this pose also prevents my standing toes from drifting around to the same side as my opening hips and chest. Rather, the block keeps the toes facing forward towards the top of the mat to build awareness into alignment. I also adore placing the block underneath the sole of my front foot in a low crescent lunge to deepen the hip opening and hip flexor release. To pad tender knees, place a folder blanket underneath your back knee for support.

Do you experience a tight lower back? Can sitting cross legged on the floor feel uncomfortable in the lower back due to tight hips and rounding in the spine? Sit on a yoga block or bolster to elevate the hips and provide additional support to maintain a lengthened spine, stacking head, above heart, above the hips. This will trigger your back muscles to take action and strengthen and support the spine, rather than simply "hang out".

I'm a big fan of the yoga strap when it comes to shoulder openers, particularly shoulder flossing. Holding the strap wider than your shoulders. Inhale and take the strap up overhead; exhale and bring the strap behind you (if your shoulders won’t let you take the strap back, simply widen your grip). Inhale and bring the strap back overhead; exhale and lower it in front of you. For those working into binds, a yoga strap can come in handy to close the connection until you can find a grip. An example of this is interlacing your hands behind your back as you exhale into a standing forward fold. Lifting the hands up and overhead in this position provides a yummy opening for the shoulders and chest. If you can't quite lift the hands away from your back, you could be missing out on maximising the postural benefits and this is where a strap can come in handy. Bringing the hands apart as they grip onto the strap, provides additional space to lift the hands and find a much-needed release.

Did I mention that Supported Fish Pose is my favourite prop-assisted pose? Replace the block I mention above with a bolster - absolute heaven.

For more innovative ways to use props in your yoga practise join me online for our 25-minute Yoga Block Party on the Activ Life Online Studio. All classes have been filmed outdoors on the stunning beaches in the Cayman Islands. Click here to become a member.

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